O.J. Mayo Must Continue All-Star Play Even After Dirk Nowitzki's Return
The Dallas Mavericks have pulled ahead together this season despite losing their best player to arthroscopic knee surgery a few weeks ago. It's like they don't miss him at all.
Well, maybe just a little bit.
Dallas' 3-1 record is the second-best in the Western Conference, right behind the old mainstay San Antonio Spurs.
They boast two big wins early, one over the reeling Los Angeles Lakers and another over the impressive Portland Trail Blazers. Their third win came against the Bobcats, so take that with as many grains of salt as you please. Their lone loss came in a blowout to the Utah Jazz.
Chris Kaman has scored well off the bench, and all seems to be going according to plan there.
If the plan was for Darren Collison to come out of the gate like Sonic the Hedgehog and O.J. Mayo to hit every long-range shot he thinks about taking, then yeah, it's a pretty normal team put together down in Dallas.
The Dallas backcourt has become something of a sideshow over their past few games, but in the best way possible. It's been so distractingly entertaining that I'm starting to think it's not a fluke. Hell, if we can determine that James Harden and Jeremy Lin are a terrific backcourt after three games for Houston, why can't we determine the same for Collison and Mayo after four?
Darren Collison's blazing speed has lit the Western Conference on fire. He's making 61 percent of his shots and it's not like he's just on a hot streak. Collison is hitting only one three-pointer a game, and 10 of his 27 buckets have been inside the restricted area under the basket.
With Collison getting to the rim at will, there's a guy hanging out on the wing who is absolutely destroying the bucket from the outside.
O.J. Mayo's consistency from the field in these four games has been scary good. He's yet to shoot below 50 percent from the free-throw line in a single game, and his streak has seen him hit 13 three-pointers in 18 attempts over the past two games.
That's more than just hot, Mayo is playing with a cheat code on right now.
That's part of what is making Dallas such a formidable team: Mayo's brash confidence and his inability to get into a funk. It's early in the season, and his numbers are so ridiculously high that there is bound to be some kind of regression, but this is just what Dallas needs him to do once Dirk comes back.
With Nowitski in the rotation, Dallas suddenly has a three-man game they can play against anybody.
Collison is ridiculously good at getting to the rim, Mayo is a streak shooter and Dirk can pretty much play the isolation game with any other big man in the league.
If Mayo continues to play more like he has through the first four games of this season instead of what he did last season (just 36 percent from downtown), this Dallas team can be a lot more than we bargained for before the season started.
With a legitimate shooter in Dirk and Collison to kick the ball out to, Mayo will thrive on collapsing defenses and causing havoc all over the court. This is a man who when he gets an open shot on the wing, he takes it. He's got a bit of Jason Terry confidence about him.
If Mayo wants to continue to play at an All-Star level, he's going to have to start taking and making more mid-range shots. Teams are going to begin pressuring him more on the outside, and that should lead to him being able to get by his defender and pulling up for a shot. Of course, he would need to make those shots.
It would be very interesting to see what this team would look like if their backcourt continues to play this well when Dirk comes off the injured reserve list. They would have a lineup to throw out there in which every single guy has the ability to go for double-digit points with Collison, Mayo, Marion (or Carter), Nowitzki and Kaman.
While this team's defense hasn't been amazing, their ability to score despite the absence of a guy who averaged 22 points per game last season has been downright staggering.
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